Fri, 30 Jun 2000

RI falls to 109 in UN HDI report

JAKARTA (JP): Despite falling another four places to 109 out of 174 countries in this year's Human Development Index (HDI) report, United Nations officials remained upbeat on Indonesia saying many other indicators had shown an upward trend.

United Nations Development Program (UNDP) resident coordinator for Indonesia Ravi Rajan explained here on Thursday that the decline was mainly due to the country's poor economic situation during the peak of the economic crisis in 1998.

He said the latest index in the Human Development Report 2000 which was issued world wide on Thursday was based primarily on the country's gross domestic products per capita which suffered a significant downfall at the time.

"But it's meaningless because all other indicators, including life expectancy and education have shown improvements from last year," he told journalists.

Rajan pointed out that the annual report needs at least a year to prepare, with a span of six months to two years to gather all official facts and numbers from the respective countries.

So, the latest report comes from data two years old, he said.

UNDP's Human Development Report 2000 showed that all crisis- hit Asian countries, except for the Philippines, have fallen in the index.

Thailand slipped furthest from 67th place to 76th. South Korea fell from 30th to 31st, Malaysia from 56th to 61st, while the Philippines remained in 77th.

For the seventh consecutive year, Canada took the top spot, followed by Norway, the United States, Australia and Iceland. Japan slipped from fourth last year to ninth.

This year, Sierra Leone again sits on the bottom rung, while Niger, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia and Burundi complete the bottom five.

The report was first commissioned by the UNDP in 1990 looking at a measure which includes per capita income along with other factors such as life expectancy, literacy and overall well-being.

In its report this year UNDP proclaimed that it also is highlighting human rights and its relations with human development.

"Human rights and human development are both aimed at securing freedom, dignity and equity for every individual in the world. They are like two sides of the same coin: the combination brings something that neither one alone can provide," Rajan said delivering this year's message.

He acknowledged that human rights have been considered a political issue and used as a finger-pointing tool of some foreign policies.

This year, he said, the UNDP calls for moving from a punitive to a positive approach, by supporting national initiatives to create human rights.

He assured that democracy is the only form of political participation that is compatible with the realization of human rights and thus each nation should become more democratic.

"Democratic election is not enough. Democracy is shown by a nation's efforts to protect the rights of minorities, creating political space for civil society, providing separation of powers and ensuring public accountability," he said.

He also said that poverty eradication will be a major challenge for human rights in this new century, for human development cannot be fully achieved without creating human rights.(bby)